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Nitrate Problems
Tags: nitrate
September 21, 2013
3:26 am
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Patriot08
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I have recently moved to a new apartment in Maine that has a well. The water coming out of the well/tap has a high Nitrate of ~40ppm. When conditioned I can bring it as low as 10ppm to 5ppm but cannot seem to bring to 0ppm. If anyone knows of a good way to reduce the Nitrate I would appreicate the help.

Thanks

September 21, 2013
4:02 pm
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knutschi
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Why do you want to bring it to 0, nitrate is not harmful?

September 22, 2013
12:29 am
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KittyKat
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knutschi said
Why do you want to bring it to 0, nitrate is not harmful?

Well, it is in higher quantities, but not at 5-10 ppm.

 

It is possible to use plants and some resins to lower nitrates to 0 ppm, but it's not worth the trouble if they're only 5-10 ppm.

Kat
September 22, 2013
11:24 am
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BigTom
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Nitrate is mainly of concern in aquaria because it is a 'smoking gun' that points to there having been ammonia present before it was converted. In and of itself, it is not very toxic, so worrying about tap water Nitrate is generally not worth the effort. If you can add some floating plants they'll mop up excess nitrogen. 

September 22, 2013
1:55 pm
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Patriot08
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I do have a well planted aquarium for just that reason. the reason why I was thinking I needed to reduce my Nitrate to 0ppm was that I have had three fish die recently, two that I have had for several months and one that within the past couple of weeks. I can't find anything else, chemical related going on in my tank, and the dead fish had no outside problems that I could perceive. That Nitrate was the only thing I could find.

 

If Nitrate is not a problem, what could I be looking for so that more of my fish do not die?

 

Also, it is apparent that I do not know enough about Nitrate's effect in aquariums. Could anyone suggest any literature that would help educate me?

September 22, 2013
7:17 pm
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BigTom
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I quite like the Skeptical Aquarist's article on the nitrogen cycle in aquaria - http://www.skepticalaquarist.c.....ogen-cycle

Also bear in mind that pretty much all strip or liquid test kits are wildly inaccurate, so worry less about what readings you're getting and look at what your fish and plants are telling you. If you've got plenty of healthy, growing plants then water quality shouldn't be a major issue.

If you let us know what fish you're keeping and more info about the tank then someone might manage a more informed guess as to why you're losing fish.

September 22, 2013
9:16 pm
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mikev
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Nitrate is mainly of concern in aquaria because it is a 'smoking gun' that points to there having been ammonia present before it was converted.

Mostly agreeing with Tom, but not quite: nitrates are of little concern by themselves. Yes, 'smoking gun' indeed, but pointing not to ammonia but rather to other things that may accumulate in the water. One example would be organic waste that *may* lead to increased chances of protozoan infections. Ammonia usually would not be affiliated with high nitrates.... a well cycled tank that is overfed would be the most common reason for high nitrate readings, but there will be no noticeable ammonia.

Now, if your water has 40ppm of nitrates from the tap, it may have some other *interesting* things in it. You need to provide more info, including full water report (from your water company), plus list of fish/losses/symptoms... then guesses may be possible.

September 22, 2013
9:42 pm
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BigTom
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mikev said

Nitrate is mainly of concern in aquaria because it is a 'smoking gun' that points to there having been ammonia present before it was converted.

Mostly agreeing with Tom, but not quite: nitrates are of little concern by themselves. Yes, 'smoking gun' indeed, but pointing not to ammonia but rather to other things that may accumulate in the water. One example would be organic waste that *may* lead to increased chances of protozoan infections. Ammonia usually would not be affiliated with high nitrates.... a well cycled tank that is overfed would be the most common reason for high nitrate readings, but there will be no noticeable ammonia.

Now, if your water has 40ppm of nitrates from the tap, it may have some other *interesting* things in it. You need to provide more info, including full water report (from your water company), plus list of fish/losses/symptoms... then guesses may be possible.

At the risk of getting sidetracked a bit, the vast majority of the organic waste ends up as ammonia (or in low pH, ammonium) before being assimilated into nitrite or nitrate, or being taken up by plants. A well cycled tank may have little measurable ammonia at any given time, but almost all the nitrates will have been ammonia at some point.

Where you run into issues is that the bacteria that break down the organic waste into ammonia tend to outcompete the nitrifiers (that convert it into nitrate) when oxygen is limited. Which is why rate of flow (delivery of oxygen) is much more important than the amount of media in filtration.

September 22, 2013
10:58 pm
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mikev
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(Getting sidetracked even more, sorry, OP!)

That's true, but the amount of ammonia at any given moment of time is minimal ... and I doubt it can ever be detected in a well established tank.

The key experiment here: let's say I doubt the amount of food in an established tank. This will eventually translate into about the double the amount of nitrates. But I don't think it will raise the trace amount of ammonia much if at all.

September 24, 2013
1:17 pm
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Patriot08
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Thanks for the help everyone!

 

Current: Ph-7.6 (had high for live bares, going to bring down now to ~ 7.2), Ammonia- 0ppm, Nitrite-0ppm, Nitrate-~5 to 10ppm. This is using a an API master test kit. These levels have remained about the same fore the last month.

 

I have a 55 gallon freshwater aquarium that has an air stone (~5 inches long), Chemical filter (on the left side), Mechanical Filter (on the right side), one water heater (in the center of the tank), plant supplement filter (adds CO to water for plants), One large plant (~4in x ~32in), two medium plants (~6in x ~8in), 6 small (~3in x ~3in) plants, two floating plants, and ~2 inches of gravel.

 

Current live fish: One Chinese fire belly newt (~7in), One Bristle nose placo (~2.5in), One female Leyre-Tail Molly (~4in), two sword-tails one male (~3in) one female (~4.5in), Two Bumblebee tetras (~.75in), One glass catfish (~3in), One Three Striped African Glass Catfish (~4in), Two Cory Cats (~3in), and One Armored Bichir (~7in and only recently added to my tank within the past week)

 

Mysteriously Dead fish: All these fish started dying about 3.5 weeks ago and no one else (except the Archer fish) has died within the past week. One Archer Fish (also recently add withing the past week), One Cory cat (had for ~4 months), Two Three stripped African glass catfish (had for ~2 months), two glass catfish (had for ~3 months), and One double-tail beta (had for ~3 weeks). 

 

The Archer fish and the Amored Bichir were recently added to start changing the my tank community. I know they are predators but they were added only recently and my fish started dyeing before they were added.

 

Anything else that I could add that might add some light?

 

Again Thanks

September 24, 2013
9:56 pm
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mikev
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One more question: what are the quarantine procedures? When was the last fish added?

September 25, 2013
1:59 am
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Patriot08
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Last fish was added ~1.5 weeks ago (as of now). The last fish added was the Archer Fish.

 

Quarantine procedures for adding a new fish or for when one is suspected to be ill?

September 25, 2013
5:56 am
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mikev
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Quarantine procedures for adding new fish.... any new fish/snails/shrimp/even plants should be kept in isolation for a sufficiently long period, at least one month for fish, better two.

If you are not doing this, then the chances are that the problem has nothing to do with nitrates or water...

September 25, 2013
1:07 pm
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Patriot08
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New fish should be quarantined for a month or more? jeez, I definitely have not been doing that. I don't so much quarantine new fish as acclimatize and preventative medicate. I take the new fish, open their bag, and add some of my water and some basic meds while the bag floats in my tank for heat. I do this for several hours and then release them into the tank without adding the water from the bag.

 

This is obviously wrong by what you say and here I thought I was past being a fng in the fish world.

 

Looks like I need to start over and relearn a bunch of stuff. Where would you suggest I start?

September 25, 2013
3:50 pm
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mikev
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New fish, especially coming from a lfs, has a very high probability of carrying an infection. Most likely explanation of what is happening is that you brought in one or more diseases and this is what caused the losses. Whatever "basic meds" you are using during acclimation are not sufficient to stop all (or most) infections, the only protection is to wait it out. It may happen that the surviving fish will make it... it may also happen that you will lose all the fish you currently have... but regardless, you should not add any more fish to the 55g until the situation is clear. 2 months wait at least now.

As a variant, consider returning all the fish you currently have to the store you got them from... nuking the tank... and starting afresh. This may sound radical, but you have a very strange mix now, and waiting for more deaths is not a pleasant experience.

You may try to figure out what the infection is (symptoms?) but the chances of you guessing it right are not good, and treating the tank with meds w/o knowing what is wrong will cost you some money w/o any guarantees... simply waiting it out may be the best course now. If you lose all the fish in the tank, you will nuke the tank... if you lose nearly all, you will decide based on what is left.

You should do two things meanwhile: (1) set up a quarantine tank, like a 10g, and cycle it -- not off your 55g tank, of course. (2) research what kind of fish you want to keep... I would not comment on the list of the fish you have in 55g now but it seems quite wrong.... you should have fewer types of fish in smaller numbers and spend some time researching compatibility. As only one example, keeping 2-3 cories is wrong, it has to be 6+. So, do research, and if you want, post the proposed new list for others to comment/suggest -- before you buy anything else.

Further, research where to get fish from. IMHO, lfs are to be avoided unless they have something unique worth taking risk.

Good luck

September 25, 2013
7:55 pm
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Eyrie
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It's always a good idea to have a small filter suitable for the q-tank running in the main tank so that it's ready for use when you buy new fish or identify an illness with existing stock.

 

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September 26, 2013
3:53 pm
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mikev
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Yes, but only if the main tank is healthy.... does not seem to be the case here, so the filter needs to be obtained elsewhere or fishless-cycled.

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